Press Releases

         15 February 2005

    ‘In Strengthening the Security of Others, We Protect the Security of Our Own’, Secretary-General Says in Munich Address

    NEW YORK, 14 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the address, as delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to the forty-first Munich Conference on Security Policy: “A More Secure World: The Future Role of the United Nations”, in Munich, 13 February:

    Thank you very much, Professor Teltschik, for inviting me to address this famous conference, which has long been a leading forum for discussion of international security. I am greatly honoured to be the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to do so.

    Anyone who looks at the global security situation today can see that we face many daunting challenges. But we can also see hopeful signs in humanity’s unending quest for peace.

    Old foes have agreed to share power in Sudan. The Israelis and Palestinians have committed themselves to a ceasefire. The Afghan people are in charge of their destiny. And the Iraqi people, with heads bloodied but unbowed, have begun the long march in that direction too.

    A stable and democratic Iraq, at peace with itself and its neighbours, is vital -- for Iraqis, for the region, and for the entire international community. The United Nations must play its full part in helping to achieve that goal. We are proud of the role the United Nations played in helping the Iraqis conduct the recent election. And we are determined to help them in the important next steps in the transition.

    The key to success in Iraq is inclusiveness. The United Nations is already engaged in efforts to reach out to those groups -- mainly Sunni Arabs -- who stayed away from the elections, for whatever reason, but are willing to pursue their goals through peaceful means.

    We will also, if the Iraqis ask us, provide them with all the technical assistance we can -- in preparing the constitution, in organizing October’s referendum to approve it, and in holding the subsequent parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, 23 UN agencies, funds and programmes are working today to coordinate international aid and help rebuild the country.

    I am greatly heartened by the efforts of long-time allies to come together to nurture the fragile shoots of peace in Iraq. I have come here today to call on Europe and America to do something more this year: to think ahead, and to help plant the seeds of long-term global collective security.

    Next month, I will be placing before the Member States of the United Nations a blueprint for the most far-reaching reform of the international security system since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. My report will draw heavily on the recommendations of the 16 eminent men and women who served on the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. One of the most eminent members of the Panel is here with us today and it gives me great pleasure, once again to salute and thank my good friend Brent Scowcroft.

    Their message is simple: our global security environment has been transformed, and our global collective security system, including the United Nations, must be transformed too.

    We all know that today’s threats can cross borders in an instant, and can appear, sometimes literally, from a clear blue sky. But what is less understood is just how mutually vulnerable we all are:

    If New York or London or Paris or Berlin were hit by a nuclear terrorist attack, it might not only kill hundreds of thousands in an instant. It could also devastate the global economy, thereby plunging millions into poverty in the developing countries.

    If a new deadly disease broke out in one country, international air travellers could quickly and unwittingly spread it to every corner of the earth.

    If a country is engulfed in civil war, it can destabilize whole regions, radicalize populations, become a haven for terrorism and organized crime, and hasten the spread of disease.

    And if perpetrators of mass atrocities are allowed to get away with their crimes, it only emboldens others to do the same.

    So, ladies and gentlemen in this era of interdependence, let us banish from our minds the thought that some threats affect only some of us. We all share a responsibility for each other’s security, and we must work together to build a safer world. Indeed, in strengthening the security of others, we protect the security of our own.

    I believe we must act, in four areas, to give effect to this vision.

    First, we must strengthen our collective defences, to give us the best chance of preventing latent threats from becoming imminent, and imminent threats from becoming actual.

    Take the threat of nuclear proliferation. For decades, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has helped prevent a cascade of nuclear proliferation. But unless new steps are taken now, we might face such a cascade very soon. The High-Level Panel has made many forward-looking recommendations, including:

    -- Tougher inspection rules,

    -- Incentives for States to forgo domestic uranium enrichment,

    -- A fissile material cut-off treaty,

    -- A tighter timeline for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative,

    -- Broader participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative,

    -- Closer cooperation between the IAEA and the Security Council, and

    -- Concrete steps on disarmament.

    Member States must summon the will to act to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

    In the fight against terrorism, the United Nations must put its convening power, its normative strength and global reach to good use. Next month in Madrid, I intend to outline an anti-terrorism strategy for the United Nations. The Panel recommends the creation of a trust fund to help Member States meet binding anti-terrorism obligations imposed by the Security Council, and greater UN assistance to help them in doing so.

    The United Nations must show zero tolerance of terrorism, of any kind, for any reason. The Panel was able to reach consensus on a definition of terrorism -- something that has eluded Member States until now. States should now use that definition to finalize and adopt a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention, making clear that any targeting of civilians or non-combatants is totally unacceptable.

    Our world must also take bio-security much more seriously. As the Panel report shows, it would be comparatively easy for terrorists to cause mass death by using agents such as anthrax or weaponized smallpox. We saw with SARS how quickly a new infectious disease can spread. Let’s not wait until something has gone terribly wrong to act collectively to meet this threat. I encourage the Security Council to begin work now, in consultation with the World Health Organization, to strengthen global public health defences.

    Second, when prevention fails, and peaceful means have been exhausted, we may have to consider the use of force.

    The decision to use force is never easy. It is among the gravest decisions anyone can ever be called upon to make. The Panel has proposed an approach to help all States, and the Security Council, to think through such decisions, and their consequences, and to reach consensus.

    The Panel sees no need to amend Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Article 51 preserves the right of all States to act in self-defence against armed attack. Most lawyers recognize that this includes the right to take pre-emptive action against an imminent threat.

    However, as the Panel points out, in today’s world we may also face threats that are not imminent, but which could become actual with little or no warning, and might culminate in nightmare scenarios if left unaddressed. The Security Council is fully empowered by the Charter to deal with such threats. It must stand ready to do so.

    We must also remember that State sovereignty carries responsibilities as well as rights -- including the responsibility to protect citizens from genocide or other mass atrocities. When States fail to meet their responsibilities, the Security Council must be prepared to assume them -- including, if necessary, by authorizing the use of force to save innocent life. I therefore welcome the report’s emphasis on the responsibility to protect. I believe Member States should embrace this carefully formulated principle -- and that the Security Council should act on it.

    Third, we must equip ourselves with the collective tools we need to succeed in building lasting peace in war-torn countries -- a task in which the United Nations and regional organizations are engaged today in a wide range of countries. Our success in winning the peace is decidedly mixed. Half of the civil wars that appear to have been resolved by peace agreements tragically slide back into conflict within five years.

    To help the international community succeed in this vital work, the Panel recommends the creation of a new intergovernmental organ in the United Nations: a Peacebuilding Commission. The Commission would give Member States, international financial institutions, regional organizations, donor countries, troop contributors and the country being helped a forum for consensus and action: to agree on strategy, provide policy guidance, mobilize resources, and coordinate the efforts of all involved.

    The United Nations also needs more operational capacity to respond to State failure. Today, we have more than 75,000 personnel deployed in 18 peace operations on four continents, and a 19th operation in Sudan is in the pipeline.

    Our resources are stretched to the limit. Indeed, for the foreseeable future, the global demand will outstrip the capacity of the United Nations to respond -- particularly when only one in five of our uniformed personnel comes from developed countries.

    To help redress this situation, the Panel calls for:

    -- Developed countries to move faster to transform existing force capacities into contingents suitable for peace operations,

    -- The strengthening of the UN’s strategic deployment stockpiles, standing arrangements, trust funds, and civilian police capacity, and

    -- It calls for closer cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, to divide labour and reinforce each other’s work.

    These are not dry or academic issues. Look at the situation in Sudan today. Millions have been killed over many years in north-south violence. The United Nations, under very challenging conditions, is going to deploy a peacekeeping operation in the south to support the recent peace agreement.

    And in Darfur, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry last month found that the civilian population has been brutalized by war crimes, which may well amount to crimes against humanity. The Security Council is now considering how to ensure that those responsible are held to account for their crimes. And I salute the African Union for taking the lead in deploying peacekeepers in Darfur.

    But even with the help so far given by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and other donors, the African Union’s capacity to meet the requirements in the area of security is dwarfed by the size of the challenge. People are dying, every single day, while we fail to protect them.

    Additional measures are urgently required. Those organizations with real capacity -- and NATO as well as the European Union are well represented in this room -- must give serious consideration to what, in practical terms, they can do to help end this tragedy. Together, working in close cooperation, we must come up with an effective strategy that halts the killing and protects the vulnerable. Otherwise, we shall have failed the people of Darfur. I am ready to play my full part in working out such a strategy.

    So when I speak of our responsibility to protect -- and when I say we must be able to deploy robustly and quickly, and that we need an integrated approach to crisis management and long-term peace-building -- remember this: our current collective shortcomings are measured in lives lost.

    Of course, it would have been far better if the chronic problems of governance that have long plagued Sudan had been addressed earlier. So let me stress a fourth and final point about our collective security: our eventual goal must be a world of peaceful and capable States, able to exercise their sovereignty responsibly, and to deal with internal stresses before they erupt in conflict, harming their own citizens and threatening others.

    We cannot build a safer world unless we take democratization, development and human rights seriously. The United Nations advances these causes every day. For example, UN reports draw attention to human rights concerns in many countries. We have helped to foster a long overdue debate on the state of human development in the Arab world. And our efforts to reduce by 50 per cent global poverty by 2015 are based on the need for good governance in developing countries, matched with concrete assistance from developed countries.

    More and more donor countries are now making concrete plans to meet the development promises made at key international conferences. In 2005, I urge all rich countries to follow suit. A recent landmark UN study shows that, with the right mix of policy and resources, development can succeed. So as we support democracy and good governance, let us boost development aid, provide debt relief and promote free and fair trade. These efforts reinforce each other, and are the best investments we can make in our collective security.

    In just over a month, Member States will have before them my agenda for renewal and reform. And in just seven months, world leaders will be called upon to make some momentous decisions.

    If Member States act now, we will still have plenty of problems. But we will have a more efficient, more effective, and more equitable collective security system, a more serious plan to promote development, and a better United Nations.

    And if you keep in mind the people who are losing their lives today in Sudan and elsewhere, that would be a precious gift to humanity.

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